Cedars Sinai: Disingenuous Lip Service Instead of Real Service

MY TURN-What has become endemic to large dysfunctional organizations like the non-profit Cedars Sinai Medical Center, is that they don't have enough staff to accomplish even their most basic functions.

Cedars tells their clientele that they care and solicit their input to improve service, while by any objective standard they continue to do absolutely nothing to offer even minimally acceptable levels of service -- or change any of their entrenched inappropriate and dysfunctional behavior. 

In many areas of endeavor this would be frustrating and inconvenient, but in the practice of medicine, it can be downright fatal, or at least create dangerous conditions which can lead to avoidable illness and even death as logical consequences. 

Recently, after finally consulting a doctor outside of Cedars Sinai and getting another sleep study, I discovered that although I had been on a CPAP machine for sleep apnea for the past five years, I, in fact, do not have sleep apnea. When I explained this to my primary care physician at Cedars and was given a referral to a Cedars Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist to reconcile this apparent contradiction, the first appointment I was offered was six months later in 2020. 

It seems to me that Cedars HMO members are contractually paying financial consideration through Medicare and Medicare supplements for service that Cedars is systematically unable or unwilling to offer in a timely manner. This seems to be a failure of consideration and a breach of Cedars contractual obligations to their clients. Is it reasonable that when I asked Cedars for an appointment to resolve the apparent contradiction in my sleep apnea diagnosis, I would have to wait for six months? 

What is clear to me is that Cedars does not have even the minimum number of employees necessary to offer its services and function at a sufficient level to address patients’ needs. 

When you call Cedars to lodge a predictable and warranted complaint or to seek redress of something like the aforementioned delayed appointment situation, you are put on hold for extended periods of time before an overworked Cedars operator finally comes on the line. During the last 20 years, I have spent interminable hours waiting on hold for an operator to come on, while listening to the exact same monotonous Muzak that nobody at Cedars seems capable of changing. 

Although real change could easily improve the inadequate service at Cedars, its administration seems incapable of doing anything other than offering surveys to clients regarding the service, which I suspect only serves to rat out employees, who then become less than cordial as they try to perform their ever-worsening jobs of dealing with pissed-off clients. 

One important reality is that Cedars is typically the first job for young doctors when they finish their residencies. These young professionals are given an impossibly large number of patients to service, which causes most of them to leave as soon as they or their spouses find a better job. And of course, this only exacerbates Cedars’ continuity of service dysfunction. I, for instance, have had six different primary care physicians in three years. 

Clearly, the dysfunction of Cedars and other healthcare organizations set up like it, where one-third of every dollar spent goes to insurance companies and not to medical care, is the strongest argument for a single-payer Medicare-for-all system like the one that Canada has that costs much less to run.


(Leonard Isenberg is a Los Angeles, observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He was a second- generation teacher at LAUSD and blogs at perdaily.com. Leonard can be reached at Lenny@perdaily.com.) Photo: Cedars Sinai. Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.